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How to keep your plants alive when you go on holiday

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 10/07/2019 Laura Hampson
a living room filled with furniture and vase of flowers on a table © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

In June I went away with my mum for two weeks, asking my boyfriend to water our indoor plants while I was gone. He didn’t. And, despite my attempts at resuscitation, they succumbed to their fate.

During those two weeks, I could have done with Plant Sitter – a new initiative from travel brand Contiki which lets Contiki travellers ‘check in’ their plants to the company’s basement in London’s Russell Square while they’re away on holiday.

Yet, if you’re not travelling with Contiki – is it still possible to keep your plants alive while you slap on your swimmers and head to Europe?

Summer - as Freddie Blackett, co-founder of plant delivery service Patch tells Standard – is the height of plant-growing season so making sure your plants are getting the water they need while you’re on holiday is imperative.

Blackett continues: “Most British homes don’t have cooling systems when it gets really hot, so our plants have to cope with the high temperatures. This dries out their soil more quickly and our plants end up gasping for a drink, that’s why it’s important to ensure you have a care plan in place whilst you’re away.

“That being said, make sure not to put them right next to air conditioners if you do have one - they won’t like cold air either.”

Below, Blackett gives his top five tips for keeping your plants alive.

1. Ask a friend to plantsit

Asking a friend to plant sit is a tried and tested method © dragana991/Getty Asking a friend to plant sit is a tried and tested method

“If you’re just leaving town for a day or two, a generous helping of water the day before you leave will hold your plants for the time being. For longer periods of time, one of the easiest ways to ensure your plants are well looked after is to simply ask someone with a green thumb to care for your plants, like a friend or a family member - just be sure to leave specific instructions on how much and how often each plant needs watering, and to bring back something lovely as a thank you!”

2. Forward plan with the weather in mind

Move plants away from direct sunlight © Luis Alvarez/Getty Move plants away from direct sunlight

“The idea with indoor plants is to slow growth down so they need less care. Move your plants away from South-facing windows where they will get the most light each day to North-facing windows where they will get significantly less. You could line the bath or sink with a few sheets of damp newspaper and place your plants on top to ensure your plants remain damp and humid which will help avoid the soil drying out.

“Make sure your plants aren’t fed too much water as this is equally as harmful as underwatering, ensure that any excess that runs out into the decorative pot is tipped away. If in doubt, feel down into the soil an inch under the surface - most houseplants like the top inch to dry out before watering, so if it’s dry to the touch, your plant needs a drink. There are also several plants that are well-equipped to deal with a holiday, our (Almost) Unkillables collection, for example, contains good-looking but hardy plants that are more likely to make it through a holiday.”

3. Move plants out of direct sunlight

“Sunny spots will dry out your plants’ soil more quickly, so we recommend moving them out of bright light before you leave. Although your plants may usually be happy in bright spaces, their newly dim conditions will cause less damage than dry soil would while you are away and unable to water them. If you find your plants are developing brown, dry patches on their leaves, they might need sunlight to be a little less direct.”

Gallery: 10 most popular house plants spotted on Instagram (House Beautiful)

4. Recreate natural conditions

“Some sun-loving plants like succulents and cacti can go for as long as two weeks without watering as they are well used to desert-like conditions. Whereas tropical rainforest plants that like high humidity (such as many epiphytes and most ferns) need frequent misting and will appreciate being clustered together because their transpiration process will provide humidity for one another.

“You can also fill a shallow dish with pebbles, fill with water, and set your pot on top to create a microclimate for your plant that will provide humidity and reduce the negative effects on infrequent watering. If your plant is drooping or going brown and crisp, you can get in contact with a Plant Doctor via Patch’s website if things go wrong and they will try to diagnose the problem and suggest a cure.”

5. Invest in some gadgets

flowers in a pot on a window sill at the window © elenaleonova/Getty flowers in a pot on a window sill at the window

“There are a couple of useful gadgets which promise to keep your plants happy while you can’t tend to them. Some products, such as water bulbs, slowly drip water into your plant’s soil to keep them hydrated. Others allow the plant itself to suck up water as needed - have a look for hydrospikes for this.

“For a DIY cheap method, try putting one end of a damp piece of cloth in the soil and the other in a glass of water - as the plant needs more moisture it will wick it up through the cloth. For large plants, you can imitate the way a humidity mat works by placing several layers of damp newspaper underneath a pot with drainage holes so that the plant can suck up the water as and when it’s thirsty.

“Finally, make sure you give your plants a good care session before you leave. Refresh their fertiliser if needed, deadhead any spent flowers and trim back unruly stems. You’ll come back to much healthier and happier plants as a result.”

Freddie Blackett is the Founder of the indoor plant shop Patch, that helps you discover the best plants for your space, delivers them to your door and helps you look after them. Follow @PatchPlants on Instagram to get inspired by the world’s best indoor and outdoor urban gardens.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

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